Sounds Like: Schizophrenic dance punk, Public Image Ltd., ESG, Gang of Four.
Signature Lyrics: “They cut me up, they cut me up, they cut me up at the medical school,” from “The Garden Was Crowded and Outside.”
Making It Here: With one Australian (front man Angus Andrew) and one Californian (guitarist Aaron Hemphill) who met at art school in L.A., plus two guys from Nebraska (drummer Ron Albertson and bassist Pat Nature), the Liars are poster children for New York’s art-punk scene – four stylish twentysomething eccentrics making lots of noise in Brooklyn.
Sophomore Stump: “The idea is not to be pigeonholed too easily,” says Andrew (who goes out with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). He’s also said that when the Liars’ second LP is released, “if people don’t like us now, it’s gonna get much worse.” The band couldn’t get much more abrasive than the ironic punk anthems of its debut, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top.
Crowd Control: “We try to make the crowd feel comfortable – like they could just as easily be up onstage, too,” says Andrew, who’s known for riling his audience into a frenzy. But no one’s taken him up on the offer so far. “Maybe they think we’re a little too violent?”
Sounds Like: Sixties soul plus disco plus the New Orleans funk band the Meters – all coming from a raucous group of eight white boys who like to dance.
Signature Lyrics: “A species so advanced / But we still just look like ants / So get down / It don’t hurt to dance,” from “There’s No Fucking Rules, Dude.”
All The Wrong Moves: The members of !!! met at art school in Sacramento and did something daring for 1996 – they started a band paying homage to James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and disco icons Chic. “We knew we wouldn’t get it right, but we hoped when we got it wrong, it would sound good,” says 29-year-old singer Nic Offer (third from left, above). “But our shows went miserably; people didn’t know what to think and were rude about it.”
And A Smart One: In 2000, some members of !!! decided to move to New York. “When we told people, they were like, ‘There’s nothing happening there! You can rule it!,’ ” says Offer.
Say What? The name !!! is supposed to be pronounced as any three repetitive sounds. But the band’s new label, Touch and Go, wants them to officially adopt the pronunciation chik chik chik. A defiant Offer says that you can call them anything you want – except, of course, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Sounds Like: The Cure goes disco.
Signature Lyrics: “Get yourself together / Shake shake shake shake / Take it all off,” from “Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks.”
You Can Dance If You Want To: Minor chords, major feedback, and lead singer Luke Jenner’s tortured wailing may not make the band a pop success, but its punkish lyrics and pounding house rhythms have placed it at the top of the dance-rock scene.
They’re Huge Overseas … Really: The Rapture was recently invited to perform at the Sex Pistols’ reunion tour in Europe. “There were a lot of beefy punk dudes there, and they were telling us to get off the stage,” says bassist Matt Safer. “But once we started playing, they calmed down. And playing for 22,000 people – while John Lydon’s walking around making faces at you – it was great.”
Sounds Like: Think deadpan David Byrne. Ironic, mocking vocals, but set to a driving electro beat.
Signature Lyrics: “Nobody’s getting any play / It’s the saddest night out in the U.S.A.,” from “Beat Connection.”
Disco Sucks! (Well, Sort Of): “Being a punk-rock kid, I didn’t see the point of dance music,” says James Murphy (a.k.a. LCD Soundsystem), who got into the dance scene late – 1999, to be exact. A professional hook-up with producer Tim Goldsworthy and some eye-opening club experiences changed that. Aside from putting out two clever tracks (“Beat Connection” and “Losing My Edge”) that have rocked dance floors all year, Murphy produces acts like the Rapture and Radio 4.
Electro Overload: “Electroclash is a broad gesture that people can latch on to, which makes for a lot of embarrassing fashion and bad music,” says Murphy. “The stuff that’s good will grow. The stuff that’s not will just die.”
Sounds Like: The Clash, Gang of Four.
Signature Lyrics: “Who’d have thought disease could be passé / It’s looking like it turned out that way / Well, someone needs to start a fire here,” from “Start a Fire.”
Beat Street: A collaboration with beat-friendly indie label DFA has taken the Brooklyn rockers to the dance floor. “We didn’t say, ‘Let’s make this dancier’; that’s kind of just where our heads were at,” says bassist-singer Anthony Roman.
Political Party: While some critics have dismissed Radio 4’s second album, Gotham!, as too derivative of, say, Gang of Four, fans rave about the group’s fierce energy and irony-free politics. “Some people call us disco-punk, funk – I don’t know,” says Roman. “I just know that it sounds good in a nightclub.”
Sounds Like: An updated version of Joy Division with lyrics plucked from the journal of an emotionally troubled social misfit.
Signature Lyrics: “I’m sick of spending these lonely nights / Training myself not to care,” from “NYC.”
College Band: Four years ago, songwriter-guitarist Daniel Kessler spotted a “very distinguished-looking man,” bassist Carlos D., at NYU. They struck up a conversation, and Interpol was born.
Anxiety Of Influence: Singer Paul Banks’s deep, insistent voice is a flawless interpretation of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. But Kessler shrugs off such comparisons: “It was a surprise when people started mentioning eighties influences,” he says. Um, right …
Make Or Break? Snapped up by Matador, Interpol, whose first album is called Turn On the Bright Lights, is one of the most successful bands to come out of the wave of post-Strokes hype – though it’s alternately been pegged as redeeming the New York scene or wrecking it (a Times critic recently dismissed the dark-suited boys as “the beginning of the end”). Interpol insists it’s earned its keep: “Back when we started, it was almost original to be a rock band from New York,” says Kessler. “To get shows, you had to prove yourself. It made us pay our dues and figure out our identity.”
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Sounds Like: Post–My Bloody Valentine makeout music influenced by Neil Young and Nick Cave.
Signature Lyrics: “Something’s gotten hold of my tongue / See what you’ve done? / I would give anything / Just to see it happen to you,” from “Strangler.”
Right Place, Wrong Sound: In 1995, Aurelio Valle and two friends from Dallas, Wayne Magruder and Sean Donovan, moved to New York with high hopes: “We thought the kind of dark music we were playing then would be accepted here,” Valle says. “But everyone was playing garage.” So the three shifted gears and formed Calla. The band’s debut took cues from Philip Glass and the Jesus and Mary Chain, but Calla has since abandoned its inaccessible sound and, with its third album, Televise, is trying to move away from being “something you’d listen to at 3 a.m.”
Sounds Like: Full of angst, the Prosaics nod to post-punk acts like Mission of Burma.
Signature Lyrics: “Not knowing why / But knowing what for,” from “Silhouette.”
Day Jobs Be Gone! After an October tour with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Liars, guitarist-vocalist Andy Comer (who’s getting a Ph.D. in English at CUNY) and bassist Joshua Zucker (who works for a video artist) hope to join drummer Bill Kuehn as full-time musicians. Look for their first single, “Failure,” next year.
Thinking Man’s Punk: “The post-punk of the early eighties made us realize that punk could be really emotional, intense, and intelligent, yet subtle and totally honest,” say the trio via e-mail.
Sounds Like: Calling themselves the “Sonny and Cher of electro-punk,” theyfavor fuzzy bass, drum machines, and the sung-shouted vocal stylings of theB-52s.
Signature Lyrics: ” ‘Paparazzi vipers! / Why can’t I live a normal life?’ /She says from behind sunglasses / Next year she’ll be a Stepford wife,” fromthe anti-ChloÃ« Sevigny rant “Permed Past Her Prime.”
Marital Dis-Cord: Given the brainy bitchiness of their lyrics, it’s easy toimagine Edmond Hallas and Vivian Sarratt bonding over a mutual hatred oflogic class at George Mason University, getting married, moving to Avenue C,and working in book publishing (which is exactly what happened). Butmusically, Sarratt, a half-Vietnamese flutist, and Hallas, a “white aslaundry” punk guitarist, didn’t click right away. Among their duds: “slowerthan Black Sabbath” doom metal.
Mom-and-Pop Act: Their current incarnation (named, rather lamely, after whatthey call themselves when talking to their cat) is much more promising. Analbum from the U.K.’s Big Cat Records (Pavement, Luscious Jackson) is dueout in January.
Jack and Meg, Part 2: “I don’t listen to the White Stripes,” insists Sarratt.And Hallas has a different relationship in mind: “I think we’re more Captain& Tennille.”
Sounds Like: Synthed-up and punked-out eighties dance music-or, as the banddescribes it, “huggable pop electro.”
Signature Lyrics: “”Ooh, I like it / Tell me that you like it / My beeper goesoff when you’re around / Ooh, I like it / Tell me that you like it / Let mesee the way you move a woman around,” from “Ooh, I Like It.”
Retro Chic: elissa Burns and Christine Doza, two glossy-lipped sexpots intheir early twenties (with a look that falls somewhere between Blondie andHeart), caught the eye of Larry Tee, electroclash impresario, and have beenworking toward “intergalactic domination” ever since.
Taking It Even Further: W.I.T. (which, in case you were worried about it, canbe pronounced either Wit or W-I-T) is gearing up for its October debutalbum, Whatever It Takes, which includes a sugary cover of the Cars’ “JustWhat I Needed.” In the meantime, you can usually spot Burns and Dozagrooving (onstage or off) at Luxx.
Sounds Like: A symphonic, keyboard-rich blend of U2, Joy Division, and thePogues-“even though we sound nothing like them, we steal from them themost,” says lead singer Hamilton Leithauser.
Signature Lyrics: “I’m a modern guy. I don’t care / much for the go-go or theretro / image I see so often,” from “We’ve Been Had.” from the ashes: Back in 1996, Walter Martin, the organist of the Walkmen, hada band called Jonathan Fire*Eater-the Strokes of its day, with a DreamWorkscontract to boot-but within a year it had imploded. The Walkmen were born in2000 when Jonathan Fire*Eater members Martin, Paul Maroon, and Matt Barrickteamed up with Leithauser’s band the Recoys. (Martin and Leithauser arecousins who grew up together in D.C.)
Downtown (North OF 125Th Street): When not hanging out at St. Dymphna’s baron St. Marks Place, the Walkmen can be found at Marcata Recording, thestudio they own in Harlem. “Having our own studio is great. It’s nice nothaving to worry about time,” says Leithauser. “Except we wind upoverworking,” says former Recoy Peter Bauer. “We can get a little obsessed.”Art Band by Day? The Walkmen are semi-big, and getting bigger (they’re onMTV2 constantly), but Leithauser is still working at the Met, and Barrick atthe Museum of Sex. “Matt seems to think it’s a real museum,” saysLeithauser, “but every time you talk to him, he’s just gone to pick uppornography from some old man’s house.”
Sounds Like: Vintage Brit pop meets post-punk (or Squeeze meets Fugazi).
Signature Lyrics: “I wish you weren’t so tired to me / But you are,” from”Wrong Side.”
The Boys in the Band: After graduating from Oberlin in 1997, Nick Stumpf(vocals, drums) and Matt Stinchcomb (guitar) relocated to Brooklyn, wherethey met keyboardist Josh Wise. Nick’s little brother, Lawrence, joined themon bass. The Strokesishly good-looking group then made its way up the indiechain with its first underground hit single, “Young Lawyer.”
Not-So-Simple Minds: Now, with their first full-length album, One Time Bells,the French Kicks are gaining steam for their clever,can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head pop sensibility. “The idea that we’ve sort ofused from the beginning is to make music that is catchy without beingsilly,” says Stumpf. “We think that you can be catchy and intricate at thesame time.”
Sounds Like: Way-early U2, if Bono sang more about his loneliness than aboutdead Irish revolutionaries, plus pre-experimental Radiohead.
Signature Lyrics: “Look back on the days you’ve lived before / Look back onthe nights and ask for more / When there’s no one left you see me there,”from the unreleased “I Know It’s Coming Someday.”
Is Queen the New Brooklyn?: After high school, front man Steve Schlitz fledRochester for Astoria, snared a bassist, Dave Marchese, and a drummer, MikeJames, and talked his fellow Citibank box-moving temp, Shannon Ferguson,into being a second guitarist. “I didn’t even know how to play a chord,”Ferguson admits.
Stoked with the Strokes: Early this year, Longwave toured with the Strokes,wowing U.K. crowds with their bombastic, amp-throwing close to every show.But Ferguson says their behavior isn’t as rebellious as it appears: “Ourlabel wanted us to make an impression, so the A&R guy gave us a Â£3,000budget to wreck all our gear. We did, but not so badly. A rental amp, whocares? I just didn’t want to smash my guitar.”
Up Next: While recording its first album (on RCA, due early next year; an EPcomes out October 8), Longwave is squatting with the psych-pop band theFlaming Lips in producer Dave Fridmann’s studio upstate. “It’s like camp,”says Schlitz. “There’s a pond and a beaver dam and badminton, and everynight everyone’s drinking and just beatin’ the hell out of this birdie. Itsuits us.”
Sounds Like Quit-complaining-and-get-your-ass-out-of-that-chair rock and roll.
Signature Lyrics: “I don’t wanna have to do the crime / I don’t wanna be the agitator / I don’t wanna have to do my taxes again / I don’t wanna be the calculator,” from “Calculator.”
Two Girls and a Guy: The twentysomething sisters Jennifer and Laura Rogers, formerly of indie outfit Ruby Falls, teamed up with bassist Miyuki Furtado about three years ago, playing “scary basements with fire-code problems” throughout Williamsburg.
Sixties Salvation: Yes, they’ve got a taste for post-punk dissonance, but their love of sixties psych-garage (“My sister would always say, ‘Play the Munsters beat on every song,’ ” Laura, the drummer, says with a laugh) keeps them from sounding like early-eighties retreads.
Up Next: Their second single, “Calculator,” is due out any day now, and after the release of Purely Evil, their debut LP, in October, they’ll hit the road, but not for long – someone has to look after Daddy’s, the Williamsburg bar the sisters own.
Sounds Like: A guitar-shredding bangfest: the Replacements meet the Ramones. Signature Lyrics: “You turn the oven on / I’ll light the match / You stick your head in the oven / We’ll all go up in one big flash,” from “Which of the Two of Us Is Gonna Burn This House Down.” Get Into Town: Singer Ian Wilson and guitarist Tommy Volume (yes, his stage name) – the “outcasts among outcasts” of Brewster, New York – left their inevitable fates as “truckers or Carvel employees” and got some equally inevitable jobs in the city (at Kim’s Video on Avenue A), where they met drummer Joey Valentine and bassist Nick Price. The Clothes Make the Band: Recently, Capitol Records execs – drawn by a photo of Price in newsboy cap and Wilson in a plaid-on-plaid “clown that’s on the wagon” getup – checked out one of their gigs. Soon, the Star Spangles were off to L.A. to negotiate the release of their first album, due next year. They’ve used the windfall to buy amps and guitars, but they say those lucky clothes are staying on – “though we have heard complaints of certain smells,” says Wilson.
Sounds Like: A barroom band to brawl by, the Bushwick-based Witnesses evoke Exile on Main Street–era Rolling Stones.
Signature Lyrics: “It used to be like cookies and cream / Now it’s more like a nightmare, less like a dream,” from “Stop Pretending.”
The Great Escape: In the summer of 2001, singer and guitarist Darian Zahedi saw a sign near his Avenue B apartment that said FARMHOUSE FOR RENT: $500/month, and soon he and the other four members of the band were summering in the Catskills. They sold vegetables to make rent and played music “all day and all night.” At one point, Social Services paid a visit, afraid they were runaway minors. Their first show in the city was on September 17, 2001. “Outside, the air was stinking. Inside the Luna Lounge, you could forget about everything for an hour,” says Zahedi. “A lot of people showed up.” They’re still recording their debut album, but look for an EP in late October.
No Wave/Art Rock
Sounds Like: Super-early Pink Floyd with “found sounds” from bugs and squeaky shoes on a basketball court.
Signature Lyrics: “When April passes by / she thinks of playing Bach / She tells her mother / ‘I’m not afraid of dying in the bath,’ ” from “April and the Phantom.”
Animal People: Well-known for its wild, ritualistic shows (in face paint and masks), the collective plays in varying combinations depending on its members’ moods and schedules. At present, “Geologist” (Brian Weitz) is at grad school in Arizona, “Panda Bear” (Noah Lennox) is doing a solo project, and “Avey Tare” (David Portner) and “Deaken” (Josh Dibb) are preparing for their New York debut as a duo at Warsaw on October 18. “Most people think we’ve broken up,” says Portner, “but we were just never a band.”
You Guessed It: “I’d say acid was the main catalyst for our music getting weirder and weirder,” says Weitz.
Up Next: Three albums are in the works, but the collective’s broke, so release dates are uncertain. “We’re looking for a benefactor,” says Dibb. “Can you print that?”
Sounds Like: The Beach Boys meet Japanese art-rockers the Boredoms.
Signature Lyrics: “Wa wa wa,” “Uhoh o e uhoh ah ah yi yi yiyiyiiyiyiyiyi!!!”
Punked Out: Five years ago, Black Dice was an aggressive hardcore band out of the Rhode Island School of Design known for explosively short sets and bloody stage antics. The group – Hisham Bharoocha (drums), Bjorn Copeland (guitar), and Bjorn’s younger brother, Eric (vocals) – has since moved to Brooklyn, added Aaron Warren on bass, and morphed from hardcore to industrial trance.
A Really Live Performance: The squeaks and booms at their shows are made on the spot (no laptops here), sometimes from equipment culled from the trash.
Up Next: A five-song EP, Beaches and Canyons (October 1), followed by a tour in November. Soon, the arty band – Bjorn, until recently, made puppets for Celebrity Deathmatch – hopes to add videos to its live shows. “This is a lifestyle,” says Warren. “We want people to dig it.”
Sounds Like: In the group’s own words, “electronic James Brown on battery acid.”
Signature Lyrics: Whatever front man Tristan Bechet is shouting sounds both imperative and unwholesome.
Working For The Man (Or Trying To): Five years ago, as art students in Marseilles, Bechet (who was born in Portugal) and Sebastien Brault (who’s French) had an idea – go on tour performing “jingles” for the multinational temp agency Volt Information Sciences. They even got one foot in the door in New York: “We found ourselves in the McGraw-Hill building with the president of Volt, and we presented this proposal. It was kind of like David meets Goliath,” says Bechet. Goliath didn’t fall for it, so the two settled in Greenpoint and focused on music.
Tech Support: Four albums later, Bechet and Brault have added Christopher Pravdica but “cut the fat” – i.e., guitars, bass, and drums – in favor of two samplers, one synthesizer, and vocals. Their latest release, Private/Public, is both pounding and atmospheric yet somehow catchy. “People have said we’re at our poppier stage,” says Bechet.
Rap, Anti-Folk, etc.
Sounds Like: As smart-ass as the early Beastie Boys, but more self-aware.
Signature Lyrics: “Keep my lips together and my teeth apart / Be your substitute teacher, write my rhymes on a chart,” from “Dying in Stereo.”
What’s The 411? Armed with liberal-arts degrees and a love of Run-DMC (not to mention Joni Mitchell), these three white girls from Long Island – D.J. Sprout, Guinea Love, and Hesta Prynn – fuse hip-hop beats with confessional lyrics from their journals, throwing in references to Sylvia Plath and the NYPD for good measure.
So, How’s The Accent? “My Long Island accent is pretty much gone – I think,” says Love. “When she was an actor, Hesta Prynn took lessons to not sound so nasal, but now she’s all about embracing it. The fans love it.”
Up Next: Their four-song EP, Hip-Hop You Haven’t Heard, is already out; an eight-song mini-album is due October 22.
Sounds Like: Mutant disco played at legendary New York clubs like Paradise Garage and the Loft.
Common Ground on the Dance Floor: D.J.-producers Darshan Jesrani and Morgan Geist (a.k.a. Metro Area) struck up a friendship in 1998 after discovering that they both loved techno icons Kraftwerk, soulful disco producer James “D-Train” Williams, and Detroit techno pioneer Derrick May.
Soul of the Machine: Metro Area has fashioned a unique sound on its upcoming self-titled debut (out October 22), one that combines the orchestral feel of seventies disco with the sleek futurism of techno. “We don’t have the literal-minded sensibility that informs a lot of house music, where you just sample a gorgeous old song and run with it,” says Geist. “That might be good for the dance floor, but it has no lasting value.”
God Isn’t a D.J.: Jesrani and Geist aren’t thrilled about the state of D.J. culture. “We try to censor ourselves,” says Jesrani. Geist continues: “But I think we’re pretty disappointed with a lot of D.J.’s, especially when they try and do live shows. It’s usually just a guy playing his laptop with one finger.” Metro Area’s live show includes the cadre of string and horn players and guitarists featured on its debut.
Up Next: This fall, Metro Area will continue its monthly D.J.’ing residency at APT (“Party Out of Bounds”); discophobes, on the other hand, can pick up Geist’s remix of the Rapture’s “The House of Jealous Lovers.”
Sounds Like: A cross between Pavement and Carole King – and as Beatlesy as Wilco.
Signature Lyrics: “It’s the slacker lifestyle that we do so well / Bills are due on Monday and I’m oblivious, can’t you tell?” from “Commerce, TX.”
Another Take: After his false start with mid-nineties band Radish (plugged as a “baby Nirvana”), Kweller’s new album, Sha Sha, is a hit, and the 21-year-old has been reborn as a shaggy, baby-faced indie idol.
Brooklyn-Bound: Kweller moved to Carroll Gardens from Texas three years ago to be with his girlfriend, Liz (immortalized in the song “Lizzy”), and landed in the middle of the anti-folk scene that has also made stars of his pals the Moldy Peaches.
Comeback Kid: So how does it feel to be making a comeback when you’ve only just reached drinking age? “Michael Jordan, Garth Brooks … Maybe there were meant to be three comebacks this year,” says Kweller.
Sounds Like: The sensitive-guy hardcore equivalent of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.”
Signature Lyrics: “The broken watch you gave me turns into a compass / Its two hands still point to the same time / 12:03 our last goodbye,” from the MTV hit “Understanding in a Car Crash.”
On the Teen Beat: Even after earning the adulation of a certain accused celebrity shoplifter and rumored millions in a major-label bidding war (Island won, and the album’s due in 2003; an EP from old label Victory comes out October 22), this crew of Rutgers buddies still hangs out with fans after every show – comforting the suicidal, listening to the demo tapes of the ambitious, and humoring the delusional. “They’ll be like, ‘Dude, I’m totally going to set you up with my friend. She’s so hot!’ ” says 23-year-old singer Geoff Rickly. “And it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re in Omaha and you’re in high school, but I appreciate the thought.’ ”
Emo Overdrive: All the intensity is taking a toll on Rickly’s health. He has always “blacked out” during performances, but lately it’s been kicking in while he’s driving. “It’s scary,” he says. “I was sitting down on a bench by the West Side Highway and I didn’t realize that I’d pulled over. I’m going to the hospital for it. I don’t want to be part of some dark, tragic ending of a band. I want to be a high-school English teacher by the time I’m 35.”
Reported and written by Ethan Brown, Ada Calhoun, Sara Cardace, Monica Khemsurov, Tara Mandy, Deborah Shapiro, and Jada Yuan.